The Star-Spangled Banner is a true American treasure. We sing it at many gatherings, the most patriotic holding their hand over their heart as they belt out the verses. The story behind our National Anthem takes place during a time our country was at war with the British.
It all began with the War of 1812. It proved to be a devastating battle with the Capitol and the White House in Washington D.C. being burned down to the ground. Then in 1814 two Americans, one of them being a poet by the name of Francis Scott Key, had tried to negotiate the release of Key’s friend, Dr. William Beanes. He had been captured following the attack on Washington.
Although the British agreed to release him, they kept all three men on board. Then a few days later an attack began which the three men watched from the deck. In the distance they could catch glimpses of a monstrous 42 foot long flag, complete with 15 white stars, 8 red stripes and 7 white stripes.
It was the middle of the night when the attack stopped. It was hard for the men to tell if the British had been defeated. As the sun began to rise, Francis Scott key made out the flag he had seen the night before. It was an emotional moment for him as he began to write on the back of an envelope the first lines of a poem he titled “Defense of Fort M’Henry.”
Eventually all of the men were brought back to shore and in his hotel room later on, he completed the poem. Copies of the poem were made available to everyone at the Fort. Through time Key made changes to his poem. Along the way others also tweaked the poem.
By 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that the poem should become the National Anthem played by naval and military services. In 1931 it officially became our country’s National Anthem, as declared by Congress.
The original third verse of the poem was omitted, as it demonstrated an obvious ill feeling toward the British. With the coming together of these two nations it wasn’t very appropriate.
Today the original flag that inspired Key to write what is now our National Anthem is displayed in the Smithsonian Institute. That is one of the most treasured pieces I was able to see when our family took our recent trip to Washington D.C. It is such a fragile piece of fabric that it can no longer be hung.
Understanding the history behind our country is important. Perhaps the next time you sing these words, you will think about Francis Scott Key and how he must have felt when he saw Old Glory flying.
Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?